Now hear me out before you roll your eyes. I speak not of making the child write ad nauseam. Scaffolding is still essential, as is guidance. The educator must still put in the effort to impart techniques for writing.
However, at the end of the day, practice still makes perfect. No matter how much scaffolding has been done, if the child has insufficient practice, it is unlikely that they will reach the pinnacle of their writing potential.
But how does one even encourage writing in repetition? That’s the million dollar question for today. (Also: isn’t repetition used for everything learning, generally?)
My GMing Experience, Translated to Teaching
Yesterday, I ran two sessions of 13th Age condensed into one awesome sitting (using the fantastic adventure Shadow Port Shuffle, by Aaron Roudabush, Ash Law and Lawrence Augustine Mignola). For those of you who’ve read my 13th Age review, you’ll know that I love the game but had struggled with improvising icon rolls, especially when I first started GMing 13th Age; for those not sure what 13th Age is, it’s an RPG that puts the story at the forefront with gameplay mechanics. Icon rolls are essentially dice rolls to determine if icons — movers and shakers of the world — will enter the game’s story.
For yesterday’s game, there were a lot of ‘5s’ which meant story complications galore! However — and I really don’t mean to toot my own horn here — I think I did a pretty decent job at weaving the icons into the story. It but took me 10 seconds to come up with an elaborate plot twist involving the rolled icons that kept the players intrigued from start to finish.
But that’s not the point. The point is that I surprised myself by finding it less difficult than before to improvise new plot elements.
But First, Guidance
About repetition, let me say this: writing doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, going by the research at the University of Greifswald, writing is more complex than we think it is. Besides logical reasoning, it also involves a great deal of creativity.
Most young people I know enjoy the process of creation in one way or another. Just look at the number of Minecraft players out there! However, here’s the issue that contradicts itself: creativity is also one of the biggest stumbling blocks of writing. A lot of times, it’s in the creative process that something crops up. Learners may have a good overview of what they want to write, but are fuzzy on the details (“I want to write about zombies and there will be plenty of gore. Main character? What main character?”). Alternatively, they may be too focused on certain details that they have no idea where the story will go until they put the pen to the paper. Either way, there’s a good chance they’ll get bored before they even complete the story. What is it about the creative process of writing that draws such disdain from students?
Many times, it’s the lack of guidance. Idea or content generation is not as easy as it seems, especially with stories that are complex (yes, even those that seem fun to write at first glance, like zombie or disaster stories). Students should be able to approach the creative process from different angles, in whichever way they feel most comfortable with. If guidance is inadequate, either because the student lacks techniques or isn’t comfortable with those taught, don’t expect them to have the automaticity in writing.
Yet, for all the techniques taught, students won’t get better without actual practice and repetition, accompanied by assessment, recognition and revision. Repetition is important because it allows the assessor to provide meaningful feedback to the student. Moving forward, the feedback allows for the student to revise his errors and improve on his writing skills. With feedback also comes the opportunity to recognise quality within the written text. These may all sound blatantly obvious and I believe I can already hear a few educators saying, “Isn’t that what’s already done?” Fair enough, but this is also bearing in mind the emphasis on ensuring the child understands the writing techniques/frameworks/methods/approaches/organisers, to begin with.
Furthermore, by using different genres or themes, we can avoid the monotony of repetition. Writing doesn’t have to be boring when supported by different genres, from humour to action-packed cliches. It might get physically or mentally tiring, but that’s a different issue. The point is, the easier writing gets for the child, the less of a chore it becomes. Afterwards, we can raise the bar or alter the tasks in different ways.
Repetition through ample guidance facilitates all of these.
Going back to 13th Age, it was self-guidance and going through the motion several times that made it possible for me to improve in my GMing. In that same way, guided repetition will help a child to find that ease in writing that removes the worst of hurdles, that is the reluctance to write. More importantly, I believe it will put the joy in writing for them.
P.S. For recurring readers, you might have noticed a new tag [✐Stationery✐] in my title. From now on, articles with a stronger emphasis on the academic side of things will be tagged with this, while those tending towards the gaming side will be tagged with [⚔Swords⚔]. Just to keep things more organised ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)